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Nokia to Partner with Microsoft, Choosing Windows Phone 7 Over Android

Well first off, this is a big deal. Nokia, the world’s largest mobile device manufacturer, needed to make a major move in order to stay relevant in the mobile space. Additionally, Microsoft needed to get some traction in the mobile operating system space. iPhone and Androidhave built out very strong eco-systems,  taking market share from both Nokia and the Symbian operating systems, in a major fashion over this last year. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop made this partnership decision, in part, to help facilitate the building of a new mobile eco-system.  What makes up a mobile echo system, you may ask. A mobile eco-system includes: 

  • Developers
  • Apps
  • Functionality (e.g., Office Mobile)
  • Games integration
  • Tools (e.g., search, maps)
  • Hardware manufacturers
  • Peripheral providers
  • Mobile OS
  • Tablet interaction (like the Lenovo laptop with pop-out Android screen)
  • Available cloud-based services
  • Enterprise mobility solutions
  • Application distribution channels

 

Nokia Corp. will get billions of dollars from Microsoft Corp. for ditching its current smart-phone software in favor of Windows Phone 7, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said Sunday, in defense of the deal. Nokia deliberately chose WP7, both to avoid the commoditization of Android and to create a more competitive market, where at least three major modern Smartphone platforms exist rather than to risk an Apple and Google duopoly. A MeeGo device would exist this year, but its role was no longer a central one after Symbian is ultimately being phased out of the high end device market.

When looking at this partnership, one can see how it makes sense for both parties. Microsoft gets a massive global footprint, spending a small piece of the capital that the company has acquired over the years. Nokia gets a high-end mobile operating system that has received solid industry reviews. Together, these two companies can attempt to grow market share against the big two, Android and Apple. But what does this mean for BlackBerry maker RIMM? To be frank the news is not good. As stated in this article, there are many parts to a thriving mobile eco-system. It is difficult for a company to “go it alone” without either a strong partnership or a truly innovative and compelling product. Time will tell, but I expect RIMM to be acquired later this year. As leaders in enterprise mobility, Smartsoft Mobile Solutions’ goal is to keep organizations informed to the rapidly evolving mobility market.

For more information check out:

Trends in the Smartphone Industry and the Effect on Enterprise Mobility

Leaders in Enterprise Mobility: Typography and Why it is Important in Mobile Application Design

Leaders in Enterprise Mobility: The Current State of Enterprise Mobility

Data Usage Among Android Users is Much Greater Than That of iPhone Users

When mobilizing  an enterprise, it is important for managers to look at individual device usage. With the end of all-you-can-eat data plans, mobile implementation managers and business owners will need to pay greater attention to worker data usage in 2011.

Google Android Smartphone users consume more data than users of Apple’s iPhone3Gand iPhone 4, according to network management specialist Arieso. Using the iPhone 3G as a benchmark, the company foundthat Android handset owners notched higher data call volumes, time connected to the network, and data volume uploaded and downloaded than users of iPhones, RIM’s BlackBerry or any other platform.

In Arieso’s example, Samsung Galaxy users uploaded 126 percent more data than iPhone 3G users, while HTC Desire users downloaded 41 percent more data than iPhone 3G users.

Android has risen to capture 23.5 percent of U.S. Smartphone market share, coming within one market share point of the iPhone, according to comScore’s latest data.  

Arieso also found that iPhone 4 users “are more hungry for data than their iPhone 3G counterparts.” iPhone 4 users make 44 percent more data calls, download 41 percent more data to their devices and spend 67 percent more time connected to the network for data than do iPhone 3G users.

When developing applications for the enterprise, it is very important to optimize mobile enterprise applications for minimal data consumption. Making the actual Smartphone applications “smart”, will allow only needed enterprise data to be pulled from the back-office. The result will be cost savings to the enterprise, and more effective and efficient mobile enterprise applications. As leaders in enterprise mobility, Smartsoft Mobile Solutions has already developed these “smart” applications for the enterprise understanding that data optimization is a key solution differentiator.

For More Information Check Out:

Best Practices: Leaders in Enterprise Mobility – Device Knowledge

Tablets: Taking The Business World by Storm

Best Practices: Mobile Project Implementation Part 1

Best Practice: Leaders in Enterprise Mobility – Part 2 Devices Knowledge

To have a solid partner in mobility, an enterprise must trust that the partner is keeping up with industry trends not only current trends but forecasting those trends into future projections, to keep you not only informed but also alert you when necessary to the rapidly evolving mobile landscape. The growth on tablets as a category of mobile devices is a certainty, but when building mobile enterprise applications, one has to consider operating system adoption trends. The main reason for focusing on these trends is the fact that, not only are your customers included in these numbers, but your employees are as well. There are many reasons for the growth of the Android platform, the major one being the operating system is used by multiple manufactures so the market is saturated with the Android operating system. The mobile analysts at Smartsoft Mobile Solutions anticipate this trend to continue, as Apple’s iPhone penetration will be limited due to the tight manufacturing control of the device. The iPhone will be a major player due to the application portal Apple has created, but global market penetration is expected to range in the 15-19% range. This leaves roughly 80% of the global operating system pie up for grabs. Microsoft’s new offering, Windows Phone 7 is an interesting addition to the mix. Windows Phone 7claims to increase user productivity 20%. Whether the market will adopt this new operating system remains to be seen. What is certain is a report just released by Gartner for Q3 2010 operating system sales. Android, which has seen 628% growth over Q3 2009, and is now the No. 2 Smartphone OS worldwide. There were some 20 million units sold to end users (that’s you and me) in the third quarter, compared to 1.4 million in the third quarter of 2009. Once can gain the insight that basic “feature phones” are going to be a thing of the past soon.  Here is theGartner breakdown of Q3 sales by operating system:

 How does this impact your enterprise? Your customers and employees will use these devises. Your firm needs to be aware of these trends, and plan for the mobile evolution displayed in these figures. This means planning the mobilization of your workforce using these consumer grade devices, and mash-up back office systems to get the information needed by specialized employees at the point of performance. Your customers will view your company’s offerings through multiple operating systems. Customer centric companies will thrive in this rapidly evolving mobile environment. The key is focusing on which operating system will fit your target market and then building mobile applications that not only add value to your customers, but increase the reach and stickiness of your brand.  The product group at Smartsoft Mobile Solutions is prepared for the paradigm shift in mobile operating systems, and as a result the mobility needs of your firm will be as well. Dan Homrich, CEO of Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, views this paradigm shift this way, “The growth in open source operating systems tells us that the software and specifically applications will dictate functionality, instead of the current situation of hardware dictating function”.

For more information check out:

Best Practices: Leaders in Enterprise Mobility Part 1

Best Practices: Defining Mobile ROI in Retail

Mobile Marketing – Trends

The Impact of Mobility on the 2010 Holiday Shopping Season

With 62% of the retailers polled in a Forester report implementing some kind of mobile strategy in 2010, many analysts and supply chain partners have asked how mobility will impact the 2010 holiday shopping season. The first answer  looks at the interconnectivity of retail channels.  The seamless tie-in between the brick and mortar, the .com and the mobile application improves the customer experience.  Here are some keys to improving this customer experience, thereby increasing conversion rates:

  • Single Branded Customer Experience Across Channel (familiarity)
  • Channel Tie-ins (location based promotions)
  • User Affinity Optimization (all CRM data will be mined and pushed to mobile)
  • Focus on the Mobile User (r customer’s utility is king)
  • Creativity in Mobile (key differentiator this holiday season)

Retailers that build a strategic mobile task force for the holiday season can optimize the investment that the firm has made in a customer facing mobile solution. The key is cross organizational synergy and buy-in when carrying out a mobile campaign during this holiday season. As with any cross functional team, there should be someone with end responsibility for performance metrics and thus “ownership” of the project. Key departments that should be involved in a mobile taskforce include:

  • Marketing
  • Merchandising
  • .Com
  • IT
  • In-Store Strategy
  • Customer Service

The immediate impact of this strategic mobile taskforce on the 2010 holiday season can be enormous. Working with the IT group, the In-store group can build 2D barcodes into products with either margin or quantity. These barcodes when scanned by a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android will then launch a promotional page developed by the .Com side of the house with marketing’s desired messaging.  When using mobile to tieinto all sales channels, the beneficiary is the consumer, as the shopping experience will become both rich and interactive. Leaders in enterprise mobility such as Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, enhancing the shopping experience through rich native functionality. Here are the mobile features and applications that will have the most impact on the 2010 holiday season:

  • Rich Native M-commerce Applications
  • Beneficial tools inside the application (ie. interactive tools)
  • 2D Barcodes (key is creativity in driving adoption)
  • Comparison Shopping using a Barcode Scanner
  • Onsite Location Based Promotions

For more check out:

Mobile Marketing – Trends

MobileGeo-location Tools in Applications and Usage in Retail

Best Practices: Defining Mobile ROI in Retail

Tablet Usage In A Retail Environment

In retail, the attraction of tablet devices lies not only in their ability to relay information quickly and easily to a back-end system, but also in their ability to seduce the customer. Apple in particular has demonstrated a unique capability to produce devices that end-users yearn to play with. With its large format touch screen, the iPad (or other devices) doubles as both a useful information display device and as consumer eye candy. In a retail environment, this is a powerful combination. With over eight million iPads live in the market, this device is particularly attractive to retailers and those who wish to incorporate this fast growing device sub-segment into their mobile enterprise strategy. With many new tablets coming to market with both front and rear facing cameras, the businesses will see huge opportunities in the interactive technologies of rich native applications.   

Furniture boutiques, for example, can use iPads to demonstrate different products. Custom applications could be used to demonstrate new furniture – perhaps even superimposing the furniture into a photograph or the customer’s living space. A rich native application could in fact offer an interior decorating suite, including suggestions derived from location based trends. Allowing the user to drop and drag products based on room dimensions would really make for a sticky app, one that drives revenue and up sale opportunities at the point of purchase.

In a restaurant, customers could flip through meal options electronically and point to the most appetising option. Caloric content as well as allergy alerts could also be incorporated directly into the application which is now an interactive menu. This interactive application could be a real market differentiator for a restaurant.

For the sale of large, high-value products with plenty of options, such as vehicles, the tablet represents an excellent aid for a salesperson trying to ingratiate themselves with a customer. What better way to sell heated leather seats in a luxury car than with a video and data about winter temperatures in that dealership’s location?

How can retailers use back-office systems in conjunction with tablets to enhance this rich customer experience still further? Linking data immediately to customer relationship management systems could allow a retailer to instantly access a customer’s purchase and service history and make sales decisions using information integrated into the sales application. This becomes particularly important when trying to sell the higher-value items, where the interaction between the customer and the salesperson is more personalized and proactive. A key in retail is the cross-selling of products. Knowing a customer’s affinity for certain products and their purchase history can create a type of mega associate. Every day at Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, the product development team is working on the incorporation of next generation retail applications, using many of the technologies discussed here.

For more information check out:

Tablets: Taking the Business World by Storm

Mobile Marketing-Trends

Using Your Smartphone to Shop, a Game Changer

Tablets: Taking the Business World by Storm

Since the release of theiPad tablet eight months ago Apple has sold over eight million units, including three million in the first 80 days. Obviously the market was ready for tablets, as this device had much more success than Apple’s first venture into the tablet space, with the Newton Message Pad 100, released in 1993 with little traction. If you look around offices recently chances are you see employees using the iPad tablet, for taking notes, sending emails, and surfing the web. The 9.7in touch screen display, allows for a very vivid and smooth user experience.  The three axis accelerometer allows for smooth integration between portrait and landscape views, which users of other Smartphones such as the iPhone and HTC Incrediblehave become accustomed to.  Connectivity of the device is achieved by both Wi-Fi and 3G. With carriers such as AT&T and Verizon both anticipated to sell the iPad, sales growth of the device will continue to accelerate.  However, there are going to be many new players in the tablet space, and the odds Apple will continue dominance in the tablet market is slim. Ten Android based tablets will be released by the end of the year, some with a price point as low as $149.99. Blackberry’s Playbook will enter the market in late November running a QNX operating system, and syncing with Blackberry’s Enterprise Server. Cisco and Dell are also rapidly developing tablets, mostly using the forthcoming Gingerbread and Honeycomb android operating systems. These new tablet have one major competitive advantage over the iPad, that is the incorporation of Adobe Flash. This will allow the users of these new tablets to view much more rich content and video from websites.

With all of the new tablets hitting the market, many companies ask how can they use these new platforms to grow their business? To answer this, first let’s look at the usage.

 

If the current iPad usage trends hold for the new tablets coming to market, we can assess the following:

  • Applications will be king (91% of owners downloaded an app)
  • Gaming is very big on these devices (due do the larger screen controls)
  • Shopping is very important (tablets blur the line of a laptop)
  • Banking and personal finance usage  will continue to grow
  • The large screen allows for the ingestion of more readable content (books, magazines etc…)
  • Productivity due to rapid enterprise adoption will drive development efforts

With the rapid adoption of tablets, it is important to make these new platforms a key focus of a mobile strategy. New devices, and also new operating systems developed specifically for tablets, will abound. For example, many tablet manufacturers are holding off the launch of Android tablets until the release of Android 3.X, known affectionately as Honeycomb Innovative application developers such as Smartsoft Mobile Solutions are developing enterprise applications that enhance business productivity, using the features that are exclusive to these tablet platforms.  The future of the tablet market will be rapidly changing, and having a reliable mobile partner that stays current on evolving industry trends is crucial to having a successful mobile strategy. 

For more information check out:

Blackberry Playbook Review

Best Practices: Defining Mobile ROI in Retail

Best Practices: How a Retailer Should Select a Strategic Mobile Partner

Mobile Couponing: Uses in Mobile Commerce Applications

As using a Smartphone has become second nature to consumers, it should come as no surprise that retailing companies are developing marketing strategies to engage their customers at this new and valuable touch point. The idea of couponing has been has been around for over fifty years, with print being the long running standard. The goal is simple, present value to a customer or potential customer to induce the purchase of a good or service.  With the rise of the internet, companies then adopted this technology to allow for digital couponing, but a printed copy was still, in most, cases required. While the web greatly increased the amount of discounts offered to consumers, as well as the target marketing of products to customers based upon previous purchasing behavior, many companies saw the actual effects of these campaigns come in below expectations.

With the rise in business of customer/consumer mobile applications being deployed on Smartphones such as the iPhone, Droid, and Blackberry, many companies are taking mobile couponing to the next level. With the actual customer’s location available to the retail companies via the geo-location on their phones, savvy companies can target promotions and couponing down to a city block. Companies can look at events happening around the stores such as weather, and send targeted coupons and promotions to all customers in that specific region. As companies further mobilize their back office systems and push relevant information to customers, such as inventory levels by store location through innovative mobile solutions providers such as Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, the possibilities are endless.

Imagine this scenario, as it is coming in the not so distant future. A retail company’s merchandisers know that a new line of products that is adored by their customers is going to be released by their supplier. With shelf space at a premium, the old product line needs to move off the shelves rapidly in order to make room for the incoming products. The merchandisers have a view into inventory levels of the current product line not only by region or city, but down to the store level. Well, while this technology exists here is the twist… Now the merchandisers can search all customers within a defined location relative to  a physical store, review those customer’s purchasing habits, as well as the product affinity of  an individual mobile application user. The merchandiser can then rapidly develop a geo-targeted couponing campaign based upon real-time mobile analytics. The campaign is pushed to the company’s customers’ mobile devices during the application launch. The promotion can be targeted to individual buyer groups, giving the firm’s customers a targeted and compelling value proposition to encourage purchase. Users who bring in a coupon on their mobile device are 30% more likely to convert or purchase the promoted product or service. The beauty of the rapid advancement in mobile technology is the dual benefit for the business and consumer.  As mobile technology and applications continues to advance, look for some of the following:

  • Augmented Reality
  • Barcode/ Scanable Coupons through Text Messaging
  • Coupons for Virtual Mobile Malls
  • Dynamic Promotional Ranges that Optimize Merchandising/Promotions
  • Mobile Promotional Cooperation allowing for products and complementary products

For More Info Check Out:

Mobile Geo-Location Tools in Applications and Usage in Retail

Mobile Application Usage for On-Site Retailing

Fourth Quarter 2010 Trends in Mobile Retailing

 Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, Inc. gathers the information in this newsletter from a variety of sources.  It is our intent to provide unbiased, accurate information.  We do include trend information and “street talk” that we find relevant or worthy of consideration.  We also leverage our worldwide team of employees and partners to provide timely, newsworthy information.  Using less formal channels, combined with our real world experiences allows us to supply with information critical to decision making in our mobile world.

Samsung Galaxy Pad Preview

The Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s big. It’s bad. It’s seven inches of glass and liquid crystals covering one of the most advanced mobile chipsets known to man or beast.  Make no mistake — this is n0tt a cell phone.  It’s a tablet computer that happens to run on the Android operating system.

The Tab will change the way you live your digital life.  Even if you never have the pleasure of using one, its game changing nature will affect every mobile device (Android or otherwise) from here on out.  Business usage of the iPad (Should this be Tab?)is over 60%, but a front facing camera is a feature that is lacking. The front facing camera on the Samsung Galaxy Tab will allow  for smooth video conferencing, and even more business adoption for the Galaxy S.  The processor will be dual core, allowing for quick usage and multi-tasking.  Just as the iPad was billed as the Kindle killer, the Galaxy Tab could be a very strong competitor to the iPad, which has had basic market exclusivity since its inception. Look for many more “pads” by the end of the year and the first quarter of 2011. This is a major growth market, due to rapid adoption of business usage, and mobile enterprise application developers will certainly take advantage of these new devices when developing rich native applications.

For more information check out:

Droid 2 a Deep Dive

Smartsoft Mobile Solutions, Inc. gathers the information in this newsletter from a variety of sources.  It is our intent to provide unbiased, accurate information.  We do include trend information and “street talk” that we find relevant or worthy of consideration.  We also leverage our worldwide team of employees and partners to provide timely, newsworthy information.  Using less formal channels, combined with our real world experiences allows us to supply with information critical to decision making in our mobile world.

Mobile Business Strategy Best Practices

Does your business have a mobile strategy? This is a question posed to many executives these days. Given the dynamic and changing landscape in enterprise mobility, many companies are scrambling to define a mobile strategy that enhances their business, and fills the needs of their customers. There are several common mistakes being made in industry on a regular basis.

First, businesses are thinking short-term and rushing to keep up with an industry (mobile) that they do not fully understand. This is not based on ignorance, just the simple fact that mobility is not a part of their core business. This short-term thinking of filling the enterprises mobility needs, such as work order management, business intelligence, inventory management, just to name a few, causes firms to work with products that are inflexible and do not fully meet the needs of their business. The end result of this quick action, a company having to either replace mobile enterprise software, or even worse being locked into a solution that is not achieving the intended business goal. This problem can be  solved before it starts by partnering with mobile application development firms that bring through leadership and a strategic partnership at the beginning of a enterprise mobility project. This allows for the following benefits:

  • Platform and Device Knowledge
  • Business Requirements Gathering
  • Back-end ERP Blueprinting
  • Knowledge share of where technology is going (short-term and long-term)
  • Custom Solution Proposals  (get you what you need, not what a firm has to sell you)

The benefits of taking the proper first steps when developing a mobile enterprise strategy are staggering. Lets take inventory management for example. Each business has different inventory management needs, just in time production creates the need to monitor and move inventory and parts rapidly through a warehouse. Workers on the floor, can keep track of movement of goods, via RFID technologies and track that movement throughout the production process all on a rugedized mobile device currently used. Inventory stock-outs can be eliminated by alerts sent to workers mobile devices. Once received the worker can locate the needed stock in the warehouse, request the stock, get the right product in the right place at the right time. Reducing not only stockouts, but inventory caring costs, and meeting production goals.  The impact is a major return on your mobile investment in the short-term.

Looking out to the long-term, you can port a mobile application to multiple devices all consumer grade, and use bolt on technologies to reduce the high costs of rugedized mobile devices. The addition of enhancements such as speech recognition, scanning and signature capabilities the technology becomes viable for your business through software updates is a via a road-mapped software development life cycle.

 A partner in mobile strategy not only saves you money in both the short and long-term, but tailors solutions to provide your firm with a real and quantifiable competitive advantage. Some say this is only for large corporations, but many small and medium size businesses can implement a mobile entrise strategy, getting the same benefits as larger companies. This can be done reasonably by simply using the consumer grade mobile devices their employees already have such as Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, on Windows Mobile phones. While many mobile application developers for the enterprise offer an out of the box solution, the failure to take into account the current situation of an individual business makes this out of the box solution a mess. Working with a strong mobile development partner, will pay for itself over and over. Bottom line is by implementing this approach from the begining your mobile enterprise solution can not only reflect your business needs, but grow and change as your business does.

For more information on mobile strategy check out.

Why is it Important to Have a Mobile Strategy?

or

Enterprise Mobility Prioritization Best Practices

Droid 2 Deep Dive

Motorola Droid 2

Without question, the the Motorola Droid — and Verizon’s marketing blitz behind it — is what really put the Android smartphone on the map. It’s safe to say millions have been sold,  and mobile application developers are excited to develop inovative and compelling applications for the device. Here are some of the device highlights..

And now we have the Droid 2. Launched with little fanfare compared to its older brother and its cousins in the Droid line — the HTC Droid Eris, HTC Droid Incredible and the Motorola Droid X — the Droid 2 keeps with the look and feel of the original while adding some needed improvements.

So join us after the break as we take a closer look at the Droid 2 its place in Verizon’s Droid line.

The hardware

At first glance, the Droid 2 doesn’t appear too different from the original Droid. It retains the horizontal sliding keyboard, angular shape and industrial look and feel.

Motorola Droid (left) and Droid 2
The original Motorola Droid, left, and the Droid 2.

The LCD touchreen remains the same 3.7-inch Gorilla Glass of the original. And it’s as good as it ever was. The capacitive buttons below the screen have been rearranged to the menu-home-back-search layout, keeping consistent with the Droid X.

And just below the buttons is where we find our first major design change . The sharp sloped chin and ledge on the original Droid has been replace with a rounded scoop that extends to the bottom of the phone. It gives a softer feel to the front of the phone. Also, the front bezel of the phone no longer is made of metal. That eliminates much of the cold feeling of the original Droid, though it doesn’t do much for weight, with both phones at 6 ounces.

Motorola Droid and Droid 2

Size-wise, the phones are identical at 60.5mm by 116.3mm by 13.7mm. No sense messing with a good thing, as the Droid 2 combines a large screen with pocketability.

The buttons of ports of the Droid 2 remain in their familiar places. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are up top; the microUSB port (with new LED indicator) are on the left-hand bezel; and the volume up/down rocker is on the right-hand bezel. The volume buttons also have been reimagined a bit. They’re more rounded and stand out a little more, making it easier to increase or decrease the volume level. The dedicated camera button is still there, though it’s been toned down a tad and isn’t quite as easy to find by feel.

Motorola Droid 2Motorola Droid 2

The main microphone is on the bottom bezel. There’s a second, noise-canceling mic on the rear of the phone, near the 5MP camera and flash. (Pro tip: Make sure any case you buy has a cutout for the secondary mic.)

And speaking of the camera, very little has changed here. It’s in almost exactly the same place — but not quite, meaning you’ll likely need a new case. More on the camera in a bit.

Motorola Droid (top) and Droid 2

The sliding keyboard has exactly the same feel as on the original Droid, and that’s a good thing. It’s solid, with just enough resistance to make you not worry about it breaking, but no so much that it’s a pain to open. And you have the same familiar “click” sound when the keyboard is fully opened.

But once it is opened, that’s when the biggest change becomes apparent. Gone is the copper-colored five-way directional pad that looked more like a fingerprint scanner than anything else, replaced by arrow keys and an OK button. And with that D-pad out of the way — it took up about a sixth of the keyboard’s width — there’s room for some real improvements.

Droid and Droid 2 keyboard comparisons

The Droid 2′s individual keys are wider and more raised than their predecessors — two improvements that were sorely needed. And they feel pretty darn good. The alt and caps lock keys have shifted a tad, a tab key has been added, as has a key to trigger the voice search microphone. And those awkward blank keys from the original Droid are now gone.

The silkscreening of the keys’ secondary functions — punctuation, numbers and the link — has changed from a copper color to blue. Again, a softening of the design.

The redesign of the keyboard on the Droid 2 can’t be praised enough. And, truthfully, it’s what the original Droid should have had in the first place.

Changes under the hood

The Droid 2 has a beefed up TI OMAP 3630 processor running at 1GHz — almost double the clockspeed of its predecessor. That’s not to say that the original Droid was anything of a slouch, but the sequel is that much more powerful.

The Droid 2 sports 512MB of RAM and 8 gigabytes of on-board storage. That’s in addition to an included 8GB microSD card (it’s capable of reading up to a 32GB card). Repeat: That’s 8GB on the phone itself for storing apps, which also can be moved to the SD card, thanks to improvements in the Android OS. (More on that in a bit.)

Droid 2 battery

What hasn’t changed is the battery. The Droid 2 comes with a 1390mAh battery (it’s often rounded up to 1400mAh). We can squeeze out a day’s use with generous e-mail use, limited background notifications from twitter and the like, and a smattering of phone calls. Your mileage likely will vary, though.

You get to the battery and microSD card through the same sliding rear cover as on the original Droid. The slider mechanism feels a tad more sturdy than its predecessor, and we’ve got little fear that it may fall off on its own.

The software

Droid 2 home screens

The Droid 2 is the first U.S. smartphone to actually launch with Android 2.2 (aka “Froyo”). And on top of that, it sports the same UI tweaks (don’t call them Motoblur) as the Droid X. That includes seven home screens and a number of preloaded widgets custom built by Motorola, in addition to the usual Android widgets. The Motorola and Android widgets are listed in separate categories in the home screen options.

Live wallpapers are there, naturally, though surprisingly the Droid 2 doesn’t have its new glowing red eye loaded by default. It’s there, and it’s a more robotic and a little less monsterous than on the original Droid, and you can use it if you’d like.

Droid 2 application launcherAnother cool trick from Motorola is that some of the widgets it designed are resizeable. You tap and hold, then drag from a corner. It’s a neat way to customize your home screen on the fly, giving it a real desktop feel.

There are a fair number of apps included on the Droid 2. Verizon’s 3G Mobile Hotspot app (subscription required) is there. So are the Audible audio book app, Kindle e-reader and Blockbuster movie rental apps. Motorola’s excellent Car Dock customizations (large, easy-to-read buttons) are there. And the City ID app (think caller ID) is there, too.

DLNA media sharing and Motorola’s Media Share app are there to connect your phone to other devices. And Need for Speed Shift is there for some driving, and Skype Mobile (still a Verizon exclusive) is on by default. There’s an RSS feed reader built in, and you have the standard news and weather app, too.

Is there “bloatware” on the Droid 2? Sure. Just like every other phone released by a carrier since, well, forever. Out of all the apps preloaded on the Droid 2, the City ID app is the only one we’ve never once used. And rememeber that the inclusion of these apps help keep the price of the phone lower through subsidies. It’s a trade-off. But with a full 8GB of on-board storage, it could be worse.

What about the rest of Android 2.2? We’ve covered a good many of the major Android 2.2 improvements in our Froyo Features section. The ones we’re most happy to see on the Droid 2 are the Just in Time Compiler (JIT), the ability to natively move applications to the SD card (though doing so may still break things like widgets).

The Droid 2 camera

Droid 2 camera
(See our full Droid 2 camera test here)

The Droid 2 has the same 5-megapixel camera as its older sibling. And it’s OK. Still not great, but OK. We’re not sure if the Droid X has a different lens or if its the 8MP sensor that makes the difference, but the Droid X seems to take better pictures.

Droid 2 camera test

By default, the Droid 2 takes pictures in “Widescreen” format. They’re not the full 5MP in that setting, but they fit the resolution of the phone and fill up the screen. If you’re worried about showing off photos on the phone more than you are having the higher resolution, then you’re all set. Otherwise, you’ll want to dive into the settings and change that one.

Shutter speed is quite fast (you can trigger it either with the physical button or an on-screen button), and Motorola’s camera software offers plenty of customizations, including a handy panoramic feature that walks you through taking extra-wide pictures.

Droid 2 panorama of San Francisco
(Click to open in full resolution in a new window)

There’s one-touch access to switch to the video camera, or you can use the “camcorder” app. By default, the Droid 2 takes videos at its maximum 480p resolution. It’s OK. Not great, but OK. The microphone does a good job of picking up voice even amid a slew of background noise.

Other odds and ends

  • Phone calls: Yep, it makes ‘em. And Verizon’s network is as strong as ever.
  • Data speed: Same here. It makes out at EVDO Rev. A, so you won’t be able to take advantage of any LTE launches that take place over the next year or so.
  • Keyboards: You have Motorola’s custom keyboard on the Droid 2 by default. Swype also is pre-loaded and uses a custom skin from Motorola.
  • Speakerphone: Have I mentioned before how much I love Motorola’s speakerphones? This one’s tops.
  • Wifi hotspot: Yeah, you have to pay extra for this. And that’s not something we’re happy about. But it works, and it works fairly well.
  • Indicator light: Yes, it’s there, next to the front speaker. And it’s green.
  • The supposed antenna problems: I’ve used this Droid 2 — a full retail unit and not a review unit (if that matters) — in two major cities (Miami and San Francisco) as well at home in the Florida Panhandle. I’ve had zero problems dropping calls or losing data. Does that mean you won’t have any issues? Not necessarily. But in our testing, it was just fine.

So should you buy the Droid 2?

If you’re looking for a Verizon Android phone with a keyboard, it’s a no-brainer. The Droid 2 has a worth step up from the original Droid. It doesn’t bring next-generation hardware or software to the table, though we’re more than happy with the speed and power in the 1GHz processor. Really, we’re talking another meat-and-potatoes phone here, which isn’t a bad thing. And don’t overlook that keyboard. It’s been greatly improved.

Droid 2, Droid X and the original DroidIf you’re coming from another platform, you can’t go wrong with the Droid 2. And the same goes if you’re comiing from another carrier. If you’re already on Verizon? It’s a bit of a tougher choice. The Incredible is another solid phone and has the HTC Sense customizations on the same size screen. The Droid X has a larger screen and the same customizations as on the Droid 2. (Anecdotally: We watched on launch day as the second person in our Verizon store — we were the first — traded in a Droid X for a Droid 2.)

And for those of you on the nerdier side (we’ll call you “in the know”), what about that whole eFuse thing that supposedly could keep custom ROMs from being loaded? Just like we expected, that’s proving to be less of an issue (though still a speedbump) on the Droid X than was feared, so we’ll likely have plenty of hackery going on with the Droid 2 once everybody gets their feet wet.

For the masses, know this: The Droid 2 is a strong follow-up to the original. It has a much-improved keyboard, is as fast as just about any Android smartphone available today and should last for quite a while. Really, the only thing we want to ding Motorola on is the camera, but it’s not a deal-breaker. It’s interesting that Verizon didn’t make more of a fuss over the launch of the Droid 2, given its place in smartphone history. But then again, the Droid has quickly become a workhorse phone, as at home in a purse as it is a in a suit coat or tool box. And the Droid 2 certainly keeps up that legacy.

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